Social Host Liability

Halloween parties are a popular way to celebrate the holiday; it’s an excuse to dress up and get together with friends. Hosts decide how to decorate their home, what food and beverages to serve and who to invite. If the social host chooses to serve alcohol they should be especially wary if there are minors present; it is illegal in all 50 states to serve alcohol to a minor. Some adults mistakenly believe that allowing teenage children and their friends to consume alcohol under their roof is safer than somewhere else. If an intoxicated underage guest causes injury to themselves or another person or property while at the party or after leaving the party, the social host may be liable.

Social hosting defined

While commercial entities like bars are ruled by a “duty of care” to the people consuming the establishment’s alcoholic beverages, social host liability laws place responsibility on the “social host”- often the homeowner – who hosts a house party. Many states, including Washington, have social host liability laws for drinking that involves underage minors.

Underage Social Host Liability Laws: Washington State

RCW 66.44.270 : “It is unlawful for any person to sell, give, or otherwise supply liquor to any person under the age of twenty-one years or permit any person under that age to consume liquor on his or her premises or on any premises under his or her control.”

The penalties for breaking this law include a fine of up to $5,000 and one year in jail. Social hosts also owe a “duty of reasonable care” to a minor who consumes alcohol supplied by them on or off their premises. Essentially, a host may be held liable if the minor is injured or injures property or someone else in any way. Note that in Washington State a social host is not liable for permitting a minor to consume alcohol on the host’s premises if the alcohol was not provided by the host.

Despite this protection in the law, it is still risky to allow teens to drink at your home as their behavior may become erratic and unpredictable including:

  • Risky sexual behavior,
  • sexual assaults,
  • alcohol poisoning, and/or
  • physical altercations.

They could also cause a drunken driving accident after leaving the home that injures other people or property.

Social host safety tips for Halloween parties

  • Have guests bring their own alcoholic beverages or limit the alcoholic beverages you serve.
  • Stop serving alcohol at least one hour before the party wraps up.
  • Never serve alcohol to minors in your home.
  • Hire a bartender for large parties.
  • Limit the guests at your parties to friends that you can trust to drink responsibly.
  • Provide plenty of water and non-alcoholic beverage choices. Look up fun Halloween themed mocktails.
  • Provide plenty of snacks and food.
  • Ensure that your guests who choose to drink have a designated driver, call a taxi or plan to stay overnight.

If you or a loved one is the victim of a drinking and driving accident or other accident related to an intoxicated person, contact a personal injury lawyer for help. He or she can evaluate the details of your injury, advise you about your legal rights and let you know if you have a case.

If you or a loved one is dealing with an accident or injury through no fault of your own, you have enough on your plate. Let an experienced accident attorney fight for the full compensation that you deserve. It is not uncommon to receive a settlement from the insurance company that is five to ten times bigger with the help of a lawyer. Call the caring accident attorneys at Tario & Associates, P.S. in Bellingham, WA today for a FREE consultation! We have been representing residents of Whatcom County, Skagit County, Island County and Snohomish County since 1979. You will pay nothing up front and no attorney fees at all unless we recover damages for you!